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Today (January 30th) marks the 50th anniversary of the last time The Beatles played live together, in the infamous “rooftop” concert in 1969. Although they would go on to make one more studio album, Abbey Road in the summer of 1969; due to contractual and legal wranglings the rooftop concert, which was meant to be the conclusion to the movie they were shooting, would not come out until 1970 in the movie Let it Be.

It is also true to say that some of the songs on Abbey Road were performed “live” in the studio with very little overdubbing (as opposed to separate instrument parts being recorded separately as was done on e.g. Sgt. Pepper). But, the rooftop concert was the last time the greatest band in history were seen playing together, and has gone down in infamy. It has been copied by many, including the Irish band U2 who did a similar thing to record the video for their single “Where the Streets Have no Name” in 1987 in Los Angeles.

The Beatles were trying to think of a way to finish the movie that they had been shooting throughout January of 1969. They had discussed doing a live performance in all kinds of places; including on a boat, in the Roundhouse in London, and even in an amphitheatre in Greece. Finally, a few days before January 30th 1969, the idea of playing on the roof of their central-London offices was discussed. Whilst Paul and Ringo were in favour of this idea, and John was neutral, George was against it.

The decision to go ahead with playing on the roof was not made until the actual day. They took their equipment up onto the roof of their London offices at 3, Saville Row, and just start playing. No announcement was made, only The Beatles and their inner circle knew about the impromptu concert.

The concert consisted of the following songs :

  1. “Get Back” (take one)
  2. “Get Back” (take two)
  3. “Don’t Let Me Down” (take one)
  4. “I’ve Got a Feeling” (take one)
  5. “One After 909”
  6. “Dig a Pony”
  7. “I’ve Got a Feeling” (take two)
  8. “Don’t Let Me Down” (take two)
  9. “Get Back” (take three)

People in the streets below initially had no idea what the music (“noise”) coming from the top of the building was, but of course younger people knew the building was the Beatles’ offices. However, they would not have recognised any of the songs, as these were not to come out for many more months. After the third song “Don’t Let Me Down”, the Police were called and came to shut the concert down. The band managed nine songs (five different songs, with three takes of “Get Back”, two takes of “Don’t Let Me Down”, and two takes of “I’ve Got a Feeling”) before the Police stopped them. Ringo Starr later said that he wanted to be dragged away from his drums by the Police, but no such dramatic ending happened.

At the end of the set John said

I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we’ve passed the audition.

You can read more about the rooftop concert here.

Here is a YouTube video of “Get Back” (which may get taken down at any moment)

 

 

and here is a video on the Daily Motion website of the whole rooftop concert (again, it may get taken down at any moment).

 

 

Enjoy watching the greatest band ever perform live for the very last time!

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At number 392 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time is “Let It Be” by The Beatles. The list from 400 to 391 is as follows:


  • 400 – “Anthology” by The Temptations (1995)
  • 399 – “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits (1985)
  • 398 – “Eliminator” by ZZ Top (1983)
  • 397 – “Blue Lines” by Massive Attack (1991)
  • 396 – “For Your Pleasure” by Roxy Music (1973)
  • 395 – “Sound of Silver” by LCD Soundsystem (2007)
  • 394 – “Good Old Boys” by Randy Newman (1974)
  • 393 – “Kala” by M.I.A. (2007)
  • 392 – “Let It Be” by The Beatles (1970)
  • 391 – “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne (1976)


The only one of these albums which I own is “Let it Be”, although I do have albums by Tom Waits and Roxy Music. I also own songs by The Temptations, ZZ Top, and Jackson Browne. I have heard of Massive Attack, but have no idea who LCD Soundsystem or M.I.A are.

“Let it Be” was the last album that The Beatles released, although it was actually recorded before “Abbey Road”. The album was released as the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Paul McCartney had the idea in late 1968 of filming The Beatles in the studio, and putting together a “fly on the wall” documentary of the band which would include live recordings of their performing new songs. The band started filming in Twickenham film studios in January 1969, but the sessions there soon degenerated into bickering and fighting.



At number xxx

At number 392 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “Let it Be” by The Beatles.



The movie ended up being a documentary about the disintegration of The Beatles, rather than a celebration of their music. Here is the official trailer for the film.





This short clip here is typical of the sort of fighting the cameras were witness to – George Harrison getting fed up of having Paul McCartney dictate his guitar playing to him and saying “I’ll play whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want to me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.”





The film itself has not been available since the 1980s, and so far has not been re-released on DVD. Apparently The Beatles would prefer it not to be re-released as it casts the band in such a negative light. But, despite the unhappy circumstances surrounding the film and the accompanying album, there is some very fine music on this album.

It is the only Beatles album not produced by George Martin. The film and album were abandoned as The Beatles relationship with each other deteriorated. Then American producer Phil Spector was brought in to put an album together. He added his trademark orchestral embellishments on many of the songs, so on songs like John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” for example, the orchestral arrangements were added by Spector.

Track listing

Side 1 :
1. “Two of Us”
2. “Dig a Pony”
3. “Across the Universe”
4. “I Me Mine”
5. “Dig It”
6. “Let It Be”
7. “Maggie Mae”
Side 2 :
1. “I’ve Got a Feeling”
2. “One After 909”
3. “The Long and Winding Road”
4. “For You Blue”
5. “Get Back”

In 2003 The Beatles released a new version of this album, entitled “Let it Be… Naked”. Overseen by McCartney, it features stripped down versions of the songs, so for example one can hear the original “acoustic” version of “Across the Universe”. In general I like the stripped down versions of the songs more than the Phil Spector versions, but both albums are great albums in my opinion. I am surprised the album is so low in the 500 greatest albums list, and below some of the other Beatles albums.

I have already blogged about their live performance of “Get Back” on the roof of the Apple building in London. So, today I thought I would include the title track. Although it is one of The Beatles’ most well known songs, “Let it Be” it is still one of their best and a fitting swan-song to the greatest band in history.





Which is your favourite song on this album?

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